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Working Papers

folder Working Papers

This series reports research activities or interim findings and aim to share ideas and elicit feedback. Future Agricultures publishes approximately six to ten Working Papers per year.

We also support a series of LDPI Working Papers through our involvement in the Land Deal Politics Initiative.

Some of our Working Papers are also available in a French translation: see Documents de travail for a full list.



pdf Researching Land and Commercial Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa with a Gender Perspective: Concepts, Issues and Methods

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 132
Helen Dancer and Dzodzi Tsikata
October 2015

This paper offers critical reflections on the concepts, issues and methods that are important for integrating a gender perspective into mainstream research and policy-making on land and agricultural commercialisation in Africa. It forms part of the Land and Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa (LACA) project undertaken by the Future Agricultures Consortium between 2012 and 2015 and informs the case studies conducted across three countries: Kenya, Ghana and Zambia. The paper compares key gender issues that arise across three different models of agricultural commercialisation: plantation, contract farming and small- and medium-scale commercial farming.

It further discusses how concepts and research methods deriving from the literature on gender and agriculture may be applied to mainstream research. The paper highlights the need for an integrated approach to researching gender and agrarian change in Africa. In particular, the existing gender literature provides a rich legacy for researchers of all disciplines to inform their research design and analysis. The authors argue for a more systematic evaluation of the gender implications of agricultural commercialisation across interconnected social levels: household, local community and the wider political economy.

Default Perseverance in the Face of Hardship: Chinese Smallholder Farmers’ Engagements in Ghanaian Agriculture

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 130
Lu Jixia, Yu Lerong and Henry Tugendhat
August 2015

This paper uses qualitative research methods to study small-scale Chinese farmers in Ghana, in contrast to research generally found in mainstream media and academic literature which focuses on large-scale Chinese farms in Africa. Through field-based observations of three small Chinese-run farms, this article explores how some Chinese expatriates are engaging in agricultural development in Ghana. We argue that this engagement contributes diverse new agricultural products to the local market. Furthermore, we find that the activities of these farmers are driven by increasing numbers of Chinese migrants in Africa, and that instead of being powerful competitors, they are in fact squeezed into the margins of the local market. They meet the needs of a specific niche market through perseverance and learning from failure. In doing so, they face unfamiliar challenges from both the natural climate and the social environment, and they are at a disadvantage in this process compared to local farmers who have over the years developed better adaptive mechanisms. Looking ahead, a decline in the specialised market for Chinese goods caused by a decline in Chinese migrant labour presents real challenges for the future viability of small Chinese farms in Ghana.

Default Blurring the Lines between Aid and Business in the Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre in Zimbabwe

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 129
Tang Lixia, Lu Yan, Zhao Wenjie, Langton Mukwereza and Li Xiaoyun
August 2015

In recent years, tremendous attention has been given to China’s burgeoning agricultural engagements in Africa. Due to limited access to these engagements, most discussions have focused on macro-level discourse analysis as well as political and economic analysis on its impacts. Little research of an anthropological nature has been undertaken at the micro-level operation of ongoing projects, taking note of the nature of interactions between the donors and local counterpart staff within a given cultural setting. This article focuses on a Chinese- Zimbabwe Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre (ATDC) to provide insights into the daily activities, interactions and cultural encounters with locals. Ethnographic methodologies are used to examine the Chinese and Africans’ activities, ideas and dialogues at the Demonstration Centre to present through empirical observations how China’s macro strategy is implemented in actual practices of staff and local partners at the ATDC in Zimbabwe.

Default The Challenges of China’s Food and Feed Economy

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 131
Lu Jixia, Li Xiaoyun and Fu Gonghua
September 2015

China’s transformation from a net food exporter to a net food importer has occurred in a very short period of time and this has implications for both China and the world. This paper argues that there is strategic and practical significance in China-Africa agricultural cooperation, as the current import structure of food and other agricultural products is imbalanced and China’s food supply-demand imbalances will continue to expand. This raises the possibility of political and economic crisis for China and threatens those poor countries who are relying on international food markets. Africa possesses substantial areas of arable land that can be developed and utilised; thus, China-Africa agricultural cooperation can potentially enhance African nations’ productive capacity and contribute to local food security, through which it can indirectly improve global food security and stabilise the international food market under China’s increasing food demand context.

Default Copying the Extension System of China and Beyond: Implementing the Chinese Agriculture Technology Demonstration Centre in Ethiopia

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 128
Gubo Qii, Lerong Yui, Dawit Alemuii, Seth Cookiii and Xiaoyun Lii
August 2015

The Chinese Agriculture Technology Demonstration Centre (ATDC) in Ethiopia is an aid project on agricultural technology cooperation between China and Ethiopia. The process of cooperation is the art of improvising on the ground when the original project plan doesn’t quite match reality. This study analyses the logic behind the improvising of implementation on the ground. It found that the running of this project is not following project management procedures and log-frame indicators but is instead based on the experiences of agricultural extension in China. Through Chinese experts, as individualactors, ATDC brought in the approach of top-down planning, assumption of package support and integration of commercial functions which can be found in the reformed extension system in China. The Chinese experts carry this working approach – along with its assumptions and principles – to Ethiopia, without considering the lack of any parallel institution and culture there at the beginning. This results in many challenges for implementing the ATDC activities and novel reactions by the ATDC experts, which also reflect the individual’s working style in the Chinese extension system. Though the technologies are still present inside the ATDC after many efforts, a request to extend the cooperation phase from the Ethiopian side implies an appreciation of the approach and its results to some extent.

Default Travelling Technocratic Rationality: Historical Narratives of China’s Agricultural Development and their Implications for China- Africa Agricultural Cooperation

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 127
Xu Xiuli, Li Xiaoyun and Qi Gubo
August 2015

Contemporary China-Africa agricultural cooperation (CAAC) has been internally dominated by three streams of narrative: promotion of food security for state building in the post-war landscape; productivity enhancement through technocratic modernisation; and promotion of aid sustainability through business engagement in the new era of globalisation. This paper explores the domestic drivers and strategies underpinning these narratives, as well as their respective implications for CAAC, using a historical review approach. The paper summarises three elements entrenched in the narratives of CAAC – state leadership, productivity-centrism and the governmentbusiness nexus – which are examples of travelling technocratic rationality. These differentiate China’s aid, focusing on developmental state building, from the established aid consensus, with its marriage of orthodox neoliberalism and a new institutionalism.

Default Mixed Starts and Uncertain Futures: Case Studies of Three Chinese Agricultural Investments in Zimbabwe

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 125
Tang Lixia, Zhao Wenjie, Langton Mukwereza and Li Xiaoyun
July 2015

Chinese agricultural investments in Africa have grown significantly in the past two decades, but there remains very little empirical research on the nature of these investments. This paper aims to address this knowledge gap by looking at three different types of Chinese investors in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector: a National State Owned Enterprise (SOE), a Provincial SOE and a private company. Collectively, their experiences not only challenge the pervasive view that Chinese companies are progressing at unstoppable rates in African markets, but also raise deeper questions about the importance of company structures, financial stability and the environments in which they operate.

Default Rising Powers and Rice in Ghana: China, Brazil and African agricultural development

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 123
Kojo Sebastian Amanor
July 2015

This paper examines the nature of Chinese and Brazilian investments in agricultural development by focusing on the irrigated rice sector in Ghana. It examines this through a historic perspective that traces policy towards the rice sector in Ghana, and the influence ofvarious actors in developing this sector. Investment in the development of commercial rice originated in the 1970s when China developed smallholder demonstration rice projects and the government of Ghana pursued a policy of promoting large scale commercial rice production and smallholder contract farming on irrigation projects, tied to inputs suppliers and food marketers and processors. The paper then traces the changing fortunes of the irrigated rice sector under structural adjustment and government support for private sector investment in irrigated rice development in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This resulted in new investors entering rice production in Ghana, including Brazilian interests, and renewed interests from Chinese investors. It argues that the main trends in commercial rice production have been towards contractual relations in which accumulation occurs through control over supplies of inputs and marketing and that these are defined by the policies of the Ghanaian government. Although Brazilian companies have contributed towards innovation in this sector, they lack support from Brazilian agribusiness and agricultural development institutions. As a result of this their access to technology is constrained by the nature of Ghanaian markets and research establishments, and the lack of institutional embedding of Brazilian technologies within these. However, there are attempt by the Brazilian state to build up markets for machinery and develop joint research, although this occurs outside of rice. Although Chinese companies are absent from the development of rice, they have expressed interests in its future developments and are attemptingto build up interactions between inputs supply, seed development and production, which will effectively embed Chinese technologies within Ghanaian research institutions and markets. The future of commercial rice production by these rising powers is likely to develop through expansion of seed development, inputs and machinery markets, and food trading and processing, rather than through a dramatic expansion in large estates. In this Chinese and Brazilian interventions are not markedly different from other agribusiness models.

Default The Political Economy of State Business Relations in Chinese Development Cooperation in Africa

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 120
Jing Gu
June 2015

The growing involvement of the Chinese state and business in Africa has generated significant debate about China’s Africa strategy and its benefits for Africa’s development. Chinese policymakers have become increasingly oriented toward improving African countries’ agricultural productivity. This paper focuses on how state-business interactions influence agricultural development outcomes, using Zimbabwe as a country of study. It explores the question of how far the State can control business and direct development by identifying the key relationships that influence the decision-making processes of state and business actors within China and its African engagement. The paper challenges the conventional wisdom of homogenised, unitary relations, and argues that these relations are, in practice, heterogeneous, as a result of the Chinese state being disaggregated into a multiplicity of provincial relations and central state agencies, and because of tensions arising between commercial market and political interests. The active role of African governments in agricultural schemes is also affecting outcomes. The findings of a brief ethnographic analysis of four state-business schemes in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector suggest that where African agriculture is concerned, a wide range of Chinese agencies are involved, with businesses being driven by either market forces or national state interests, which together make outcomes increasingly less generalisable.

Default Interpreting China-Africa Agricultural Encounters: Rhetoric and Reality in a Large Scale Rice Project in Mozambique

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 126
Zhang Chuanhong, Li Xiaoyun, Oi Gubo and Wang Yanlei
July 2015

In recent years, China’s burgeoning agricultural investment in Africa has attracted tremendous attention from media, academics and policymakers worldwide. The macro-level discussions around the nature and significance of these engagements have been debated and well documented within a vast body of literature. However, little research had been done concerning the local encounters through a particular project, which constitutes a very important angle in understanding how success or failure of a development model is produced. In this article, the authors went beyond apolitical economic approach and examined how local encounters construct and reshape the practice of a particular agricultural investment project using actor-oriented approaches. The perspectives of both Chinese actors and their African counterparts were explored and analysed based on a large-scale Chinese rice project in Mozambique. The research found that the optimistic rhetoric of state actors and investors fell short of the reality of the many unacknowledged structures and chance events. However, despite the unintended outcomes, the rhetoric persists due to the project’s significance – not only in its potential for economic profit, but also in terms of its political prestige.

pdf A Chinese Pesticide Enterprise in Ghana: Motivations, Impacts, Challenges and Local Interactions Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 124
Yu Lerong, Lu Jixia, Henry Tugendhat and Li Xiaoyun
July 2015

This working paper explores the motivations, impacts, challenges and interactions of a successful Chinese pesticide enterprise in Ghana. In the context of much China-Africa literature focusing on state-backed Chinese business initiatives in Africa, this paper takes an ethnographic approach to explain the rise of a private sector Chinese agrochemicals company in Ghana. This is significant because of the frugal amount of literature that does cover Chinese migrant businesses in Africa, very few studies look at agricultural firms in particular. The main conclusion of this research is that the pushfactors from China’s domestic market and opportunities from Ghana’s agrochemicals market are important driving forces for Chinese pesticide enterprises to ‘go out’. Furthermore, diversified strategies are necessary to deal with local market environments based on business and social networks that intertwine formal and informal relations.

pdf Chinese Training Courses for African Agriculture: Transformational Knowledge? Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 122
Henry Tugendhat
July 2015

China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) has launched one of the largest training course programmes in the world as part of its international cooperation programme with Africa. In these training courses, China’s foremost universities, state bureaux, and private companies transfer their knowledge to 10,000 African government officials per year. The courses cover everything from the management of health epidemics to customs office administration, all drawing from China’s most recent socio-economic development experiences. In 2013, agriculture-related topics made up a significant 15 percent of total training courses, covering courses on both policy and technology.

There has been a strong narrative, from Chinese government officials and their African counterparts alike, that what is particularly appealing about China is that its agricultural sector has similarities with that of many African countries. They talk of China’s diversity of climates to match the many African environments, as well as China’s dependence on smallholder farming. The logical conclusion from such narratives would appear to be: what worked for China, must work for Africa. In this context, the MOFCOM training courses consist of one of the most direct forms of knowledge transfer from Chinese experts to African state leaders and policymakers. Many of the Chinese experts involved are not just qualified in the theory of what they teach, but have had first-hand experiences of effecting the change that brought about China’s own agricultural achievements.

As such, this paper seeks to understand how China’s agricultural training courses have affected agricultural practices in the African countries where they train. This looks at how the training courses work, how transferable this knowledge really is for African agricultural contexts, and finally, what these training courses really achieve in the broader context of China-Africa relations. Ghana and Zimbabwe are focused on as key case studies for this paper, and fieldwork was also conducted with training institutions and lecturers in China.

This paper is part of our project on China and Brazil in African Agriculture.

pdf Jumping into the Sea: Chinese Migrants’ Engagement in Non-Traditional Agricultural Commodities in Ethiopia Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 121
Seth Cook and Dawit Alemu
July 2015

This paper explores the nature and extent of Chinese migrants’ involvement in the demand and supply of non-traditional agricultural commodities in Ethiopia, shares the perspectives of the different actors involved, and discusses the implications of this presence for Ethiopian development.

The focus here is not simply on the food and agriculture sector; the study also aims to shed light on the Chinese migrants involved in that sector. For instance, who are they and where do they come from in China? Why do they come to Ethiopia, and how do they end up in the food and agriculture sector? How do their business networks operate? What are their aspirations, and do they see Ethiopia as a permanent home?

This paper is part of our project on China and Brazil in African Agriculture.

pdf Pathways for irrigation development in Africa – insights from Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique (Summary) Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 119 (Summary version)
Naomi Oates, Guy Jobbins, Beatrice Mosello and John Arnold
June 2015

This paper summarises the findings of a rapid review to determine the policies and practices that have shaped irrigation performance over the last 50 years in three African countries: Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique.

The research combined a review of national (sector) level trends with short case studies of specific irrigation schemes. Evidence was drawn from the literature, supplemented by in-country key informant interviews and brief site visits. The review considers changes in policy and their drivers; linkages between policy, practice and performance; factors determining scheme performance; and key issues for future policymaking.

Full details can be found in the main working paper.

pdf Pathways for irrigation development in Africa – insights from Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 119
Naomi Oates, Guy Jobbins, Beatrice Mosello and John Arnold
June 2015

Irrigation has played an important role in agricultural modernisation around the world. In Africa, however, agricultural production has increased very slowly over the last fifty years, barely keeping pace with population growth. After a period of relative neglect, the international community is showing renewed interest in African irrigation as a means to tackle food insecurity, increasing water scarcity and climate change. Calls for increased investment present an opportunity to learn from past experiences in order to chart plausible pathways for future development.

This working paper reviews the policies and practices that have shaped irrigation development in Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique of the last fifty years. The research combines an analysis of sector trends with case studies of specific irrigation schemes, considering linkages between policy, practice and performance, drivers of change, and key issues for future policymaking.

A summary version of this paper is also available.

pdf Gender implications of agricultural commercialisation: The case of sugarcane production in Kilombero District, Tanzania Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 118
Helen Dancer and Emmanuel Sulle
May 2015

Since the global food crisis of 2008 the Tanzanian government, amongst other African governments, has made food security through increases in agricultural productivity a policy priority. The emphasis in Tanzania is on commercialisation, with a particular focus on large-scale rice and sugarcane production. Gender equity within African agricultural production is a critical issue; yet limited empirical research exists on the gender implications of agricultural commercialisation now taking place in the region.

This paper presents findings from fieldwork conducted in Kilombero District of Tanzania in 2013 and 2014. The research takes the country’s largest sugar producer – Kilombero Sugar Company Ltd – as its focus and analyses the socio-economic implications of the commercialisation of sugarcane production from a gender perspective. The findings demonstrate the significance of gender relations in the development of commercial agricultural business models, local socio-economic development and land titling measures. They also illustrate the pressures and benefits for relationships and resource-sharing within households in the transition from food crops to sugarcane production.

pdf Agricultural growth in the New Alliance countries Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 108
Steve Wiggins, Sharada Keats and Jim Sumberg
April 2015

Rural Africa has changed considerably since the early 1990s. Demand for agricultural output is greater owing to higher world prices, economic growth, urbanisation and an enlarged urban middle class. Above all, governments and their development partners have revived their interest in agriculture during the 2000s. Concerted efforts are now underway to raise agricultural productivity and the rate of agricultural growth.

This prompts the two main questions addressed by this study. Is agriculture in Africa growing faster than in the past, and closer to the ambitious goal set in Maputo in 2003 of six percent growth per year? Equally important, is productivity in agriculture rising? Increased labour productivity will be critical for the transition of African countries from agrarian to urban economies. The focus here is on the countries that had by early 2014 joined the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania.

pdf International Drivers of Brazilian Agricultural Cooperation in Africa in the Post-2008 Economic Crisis Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 117
Alcides Costa Vaz
March 2015

This text focuses on the major drivers of Brazilian agricultural cooperation in Africa as conceived and pursued from 2004 to 2014, with emphasis on the impacts of political and economic international changes that took place in that period, and particularly the impacts of the 2008 economic crisis, in framing Brazil’s foreign policy and development assistance initiatives. It addresses current international forces and developments at the systemic level, but also analyses recent economic domestic developments, in particular those directly related to Brazilian agriculture and those related to the policy framework of its evolving internationalisation. Special attention is paid to the dual dimensions of Brazilian agricultural policy and to its projection in agricultural cooperation as pursed in Africa.

pdf Perspectives on jobs and farming: Findings from a Q study with young people, parents and development workers in rural Ghana Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 109
James Sumberg, Thomas Yeboah, Justin Flynn and Nana Akua Anyidoho
April 2015

This paper presents the results of a series of Q Methodology studies with secondary students and parents at two sites in Ghana (Ashanti Region and Northern Region), and with development officials. The studies were informed by the argument that there is a significant risk of implementation failure when there is a clash of assumptions or world views among the parties associated with a policy process. Specifically the objective was to explore in a systematic way the perspectives of rural young people, their parents and development officials on a series of questions relating to work in general and agriculture in particular. Five specific research questions were addressed: What is a desirable job? What makes a job desirable? What explains young people’s attitude toward farming? Why should we be concerned about rural young people and farming? What should be done about rural young people and farming?

pdf Zimbabwe-Brazil cooperation through the More Food Africa Programme Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 116
Langton Mukwereza
March 2015

The expanding footprint of BRICS countries in Africa, especially over the last 15 years, has remained a subject of intense public interest in academic, development and diplomatic circles. There is some understandable trepidation among traditional donors towards the BRICS approach, and their focus remains on China.

Zimbabwe experienced intractable socio-economic development challenges from 2000 and the period 1998- 2008 has been referred to mildly as one of ‘political and economic crisis’. The European Union, which had hitherto been the largest development partner for Zimbabwe, suspended development cooperation with the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) and confirmed the fallout by imposing sanctions on specified state entities and members of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANUPF). As Zimbabwe was actively courting investment from the East, Brazil was in its own way extending its tentacles across Africa in line with its increasing economic stature.

The GoZ has been in discussion with the Government of Brazil (GoB) for a major agricultural mechanisation cooperation programme since 2010, and the first batch of machinery and equipment was delivered between October 2014 and January 2015. The South American country is supplying tractors, tractor-drawn equipment and irrigation equipment under a concessionary loan agreement through the More Food Africa programme. The process to culminate in the supply of the equipment has been intractable and is yet to fully play out. Yet negotiations have been undertaken cordially and with mutual respect. This paper documents the negotiation process to date, situating it within the broad development encounters between Brazil and Africa, and in particular that BRICS country and Zimbabwe.

This paper is part of our project on China and Brazil in African Agriculture.